by Virginia G. Essandoh, JD

Chief Diversity Officer
Ballard Spahr LLP

In legal organizations where the cultures are based largely on traditionalist and baby boomer values, how should the values, expectations, and behaviors of Generation Y lawyers affect our internal systems, processes, and initiatives?

The Issue

In any given legal organization, four generations of lawyers can be found working alongside each other: Traditionalist (66 or older), Baby Boomer ( 47 to 65), Generation X (31 to 46), and Generation Y (25 to 30). Much has been written about prior generations of lawyers; it is the newest generation—Gen Y—that we are learning more about. Their variations in communication styles, attitudes, and approaches will affect working relationships, client relationships, and the success of legal organizations.

“Generation Y lawyers value a high sense of equity and fair play as well as civic responsibility.”

Generation Y lawyers value a high sense of equity and fair play as well as civic responsibility. They have a desire to give back and lead environmentally-friendly lives.

Expectations include up-to-date technological gear, systems that synchronize with personal gadgets, and a workplace that values diversity and support for innovation and creativity. They also expect a workplace where individual opinions are sought and valued. Their behaviors include a willingness to please and a preference for teamwork and collegiality.

The Solution

  • Recruiting. Include lawyers from all generations on hiring committees. Such committees should discuss and understand the approach that is needed to attract the best applicant pool. Websites and recruiting materials should focus on firm innovation, mentoring, training and development opportunities, lifestyle, and work-life balance benefits.
  • Orientation. Expand the orientation process to provide more guidance in navigating the office environment. Explain expectations regarding professionalism, confidentiality, and privacy in the age of social media. Provide clear guidance as to how others may interpret their work styles, attitudes, and interactions with authority.
  • Retention. Enable associates to meet a variety of potential mentors and then allow them to select the one to whom they relate best. Support the decision of lawyers who choose more flexibility in their careers.
  • Feedback. Gen Ys crave more communication, transparency, and ongoing feedback about performance and expectations. Look for ways to harness technology to deliver personalized feedback in real time and on demand.
  • Training And Development. Many firms have moved to a competency-based model, which will appeal to Gen Ys as long as they get training related to the competencies. Define competencies that will show growth and development. Devise lively, creative forms of training that incorporate technology and offer the opportunity to collaborate with their peers.
  • Rewards. In addition to salaries, benefits, and bonuses, Gen Ys will appreciate non-financial rewards such as flexible work schedules, gym memberships, and cost saving/time saving services. Acknowledgment, informal or formal, for professional and civic accomplishments is also valued.

Virginia G. Essandoh, JD

Virginia G. Essandoh, JD

Chief Diversity Officer
Ballard Spahr LLP

Ballard Spahr LLP, a national firm with more than 475 lawyers in 13 offices in the United States, provides a range of services in litigation, business and finance, real estate, intellectual property, and public finance. Clients include Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, life sciences and technology companies, health systems, investors and developers, government agencies and sponsored enterprises, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations.